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Labyrinth to provide a path for reflection


An outdoor labyrinth surrounded by gardens and an interfaith pavilion will greet visitors and residents at Stadium Place, the senior housing and recreation project just getting under way on the 30 acres where Memorial Stadium once stood on East 33rd Street.

"It will be a peaceful kind of entrance," said the Rev. John R. Sharp, president of Govans Ecumenical Development Corp., a church-based nonprofit redeveloping the site. "It makes a statement about Stadium Place growing out of the faith community. It makes a nice gathering area and it's an invitation to come in."

The main entrance - facing East 33rd Street - and other features of the project were discussed last week at an architectural and design forum held at the Episcopal Diocese, 4 E. University Parkway.

There will be an indoor U-shaped swimming pool open to the public, and the Curran Memorial Bell Tower on York Road in Govans probably will be moved to Stadium Place, 3rd District City Councilman Robert W. Curran said.

The carillon bells, broken when they were struck by lightning several years ago, would be repaired, Curran said. The bell tower is dedicated to his late father, J. Joseph Curran Sr., a Democratic powerhouse in city politics.

"We are in the midst of raising funds to get the bells repaired and would like them to be in a suitable location where they can be enjoyed," Curran said last Friday.

Although people entering the grounds won't have to walk the labyrinth, it will be a significant landscape feature.

Dating to ancient times, labyrinths are gaining popularity as places of reflection. Circular, with winding walking paths leading to a center, they are intended as metaphors for life's journeys. One of the world's most famous labyrinths is engraved in the stone floor of Chartres Cathedral in France.

Sharp heads Govans Ecumenical Development Corp., a nonprofit network of churches in North Baltimore, and ministers at Govans Presbyterian Church. He became interested in walking labyrinths seven years ago and visited Grace Cathedral in San Francisco for a weekend workshop on the subject. The labyrinth on the grounds of his Govans church is the largest in Baltimore.

"It's an ancient instrument and a wonderful resource as a Jew, as a Hindu, as a Christian," Sharp said. "It helps calm and clear your mind."

The new entrance will be funded with a $150,000 grant by the TKF Foundation, a small family-based institution in Annapolis. The labyrinth will rest on the site of the dedicatory wall, which was demolished along with the rest of the stadium. The surface will be poured concrete, to ensure a smooth path for disabled visitors.

Sharp said he expects the mixed-income housing community for 500 seniors will be built in four or five years.

Seventy one-bedroom apartments, costing $5.8 million in federal funds, are scheduled to be completed by next spring. The project also will include townhouses and, Sharp hopes, an assisted-living facility for seniors with low to moderate incomes.

"We're working on a model, but affordable assisted living is the hardest part," Sharp said, noting that it is difficult to deliver medical and meal services to seniors for less than $3,000 each monthly, approximately the going rate in the Baltimore area.

The YMCA of Central Maryland, GEDCO's redevelopment partner, recently broke ground on an $11 million recreation facility, scheduled to open in the summer of next year, officials said.

Lee J. Jensen, the president of YMCA of Central Maryland, said the decision to build a U-shaped pool 5 feet deep rather than a deeper rectangular pool was made final after consultation with community representatives.

"This is the trend," Jensen said, "because it allows three different functions to go on at the same time, including lap swimming and family play. The day this opens, people will just love it."

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